By Allison Gingras
This mercy offering sacrament is transformative. Described in the Catechism of the Catholic Church as an “Interior repentance is a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, with repugnance toward the evil actions we have committed. At the same time, it entails the desire and resolution to change one’s life, with hope in God’s mercy and trust in the help of his grace. This conversion of heart is accompanied by a salutary pain and sadness which the Fathers called animi cruciatus (affliction of spirit) and compunctio cordis (repentance of heart)” (CCC 1431).
A “radical orientation of our whole life,” seems relatively powerful language for walking into a little room with a priest, whom I may or may not know, and spilling my guts to him. Spewing out a laundry list of “should have” and “should have nots.” Why not bring these directly to Jesus in prayer? What is the deal with the middle-man?
Confession Chicken Converted
There was a time I was petrified to come to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. My heart raced, palms sweat, throat closed, and my feet wanted to sprint to the nearest exit. Honestly, I avoided it, until the Holy Spirit nudged me to go, and there, Jesus made me laugh.
First, the nudge, Jesus’ words in Matthew’s Gospel, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18). Next, the time the priest called me back into the confessional. I am sure that’s happened to your before, right? After completing my Confession and reaching for the door to leave, I heard, “oh, wait, one more thing.” It became uncomfortable because I’d already opened the door and made eye contact with the long line of people waiting! I sheepishly smiled at the kind folks staring at me, and slowly closed the door—again.
The kind priest recognized my voice and remembered he wanted to share some exciting things happening at the parish with me, as the beer commercial preaches, “time and a place.” Although it didn’t seem appropriate, a little insight sparked by grace, helped it all come together in what turned out to be — God’s perfect timing.
Genuine Encounter with Christ
The Sacrament of Reconciliation is the love and mercy of Jesus, offered through the priest, In Persona Christi “in the person of Christ.” A genuine encounter with Christ, excited to share this moment of grace with you, and eager to wash away your iniquities and cleanse you from your sins (Psalm 51). Sure, it will be uncomfortable, that’s contrition! The good giggle I get every time I recall my ‘confession call-back,” is proof that after the mourning, comes the joy!
As for that middle-man, I am grateful for the opportunity to encounter Jesus through the priest because I have yet to experience anything in this world, as sweet as the words, “your sins are forgiven, go in peace.”
About the author:
Allison Gingras shares her beloved Catholic faith with honesty and laughter. Allison created the Stay Connected Journals for Catholic Women (OSV), which includes her titles: Seeking Peace: A Spiritual Journey from Worry to Trust and The Gift of Invitation. She tends the Virtual Vineyard as the National WINE Steward — facilitating WINE book clubs and social media.